Yesterday the Princeton Review released its annual rankings of American colleges and universities, featuring very important lists like Birkenstock-Wearing, Tree-Hugging, Clove-Smoking Vegetarians and Scotch and Soda, Hold the Scotch.  Like countless other students, I checked out the rankings to see where my school placed.  Throughout the day my Facebook news feed was full of links and updates celebrating our rise to the #2 party school, up three spots from last year.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little excited by the new ranking.  I posted a link on Facebook just like my peers.  Sure it’s fun to celebrate and live up to the party school reputation, but do we really need these rankings?

Think of how the Princeton Review calculates the rankings.  The entire thing is based on student surveys with no additional research added into the formula.  Every year students here stuff the ballot box to make sure we stay near the top of the party schools chart.  It’s about as unscientific a process as possible, yet people follow these rankings like a sacred text.  As ridiculous as it sounds, I know people who chose colleges based on Princeton Review rankings.  If the rankings factored in things like alcohol sales near campuses or noise violations in off-campus neighborhoods I’d be more inclined to take them seriously.

Trust me, it’s fun to go to a notorious party school now, but in the future it will surely have its downsides.  Luckily for me, my program’s reputation overshadows the overall university’s, but others here don’t have that luxury.  Schools like Florida and Penn State can get away with being placing high on the party school list because their names are synonymous with athletic success.  However, Ohio is in a different situation.  When people think of Ohio University they either confuse it with Ohio State or label it as a party school and move on.  The Princeton Review is only encouraging people to continue this way of thinking by publishing these annual student surveys.

I’m sure the Princeton Review was a handy guide when it was founded in 1981.  It gives people a quick overview of colleges across the country in one book, but the information is rather lacking.  In today’s internet-driven times I don’t think it’s as useful.  I can find almost anything I want to know about any school in the country by visiting their website.  It’s also pretty easy to find students and alumni of an institution willing to share their experiences.  All of this is far more useful than the random quotes the Princeton Review uses in the one-page writeup of a college.  It doesn’t help that there is no additional information given along with the rankings, just a simple numerical list of schools.  The rankings simply allow people to write off a school as a party school or hippie school without looking further into it.

I can’t speak for my colleagues on the subject, but I know I’d be upset at some of their rankings as well.

Now there’s nothing wrong with being labeled as having great athletic facilities or a top entrepreneurial programs, the same way there’s nothing wrong with Ohio making the great financial aid list.  Although again even the positive lists are created solely from survey results.  I don’t think I’d want to be labeled as a jock school or known for having little interaction between students of various races.  Granted these lists aren’t as prominent as the party schools one, but they still do a little damage to the universities’ reputations.  Perhaps Mr. Dunn’s Columbus College of Art and Design fared the best of all four schools, not appearing on a single Princeton Review list.

Some people wear the rankings as a badge of honor, when they really aren’t something to be proud of.  I know we have parties celebrating our new party school ranking.  Does Ohio State have pickup games to celebrate its jock school reputation?  Does Miami have WASP-only events in honor of their little race/class interaction ranking?

Until the Princeton Review updates their ranking formula to include more than student surveys, I will continue to take these lists with a grain of salt.  They sure make some fun talking points and drum up a great deal of publicity for the annual Princeton Review book, but since there’s so little sustenance to them people need to disregard the potential reputations they create.

Tyler

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